Monday, 10 September 2018
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Energy, Senator Birmingham. Will the minister advise the Senate as to what the government is doing to reduce power prices for Australian households and businesses and to ensure reliability of supply?
I thank Senator Molan for his question. Senator Molan, like every member of the Liberal and National parties, is firmly committed to ensuring that Australian retirees have the lowest electricity bills possible, that Australian families have the lowest electricity bills possible and that Australian businesses have the lowest electricity bills possible. They are the absolute priorities of the Morrison government—our determination to make sure that we deliver on practical action to lower power prices.
That's why we're driving forward with the ACCC recommendations to stop price gouging by energy companies, to provide customers with a clear price safety net and to back investment in reliable generation that will encourage more competition in the market. The combination of all of these factors will deliver for Australians—for Australian households and for Australian businesses—lower power prices. Indeed, they're building upon a track record of the Liberal and National parties that has already seen reductions in power prices announced in Queensland, in New South Wales and in South Australia from 1 July. They will see the securing of gas for Australians, seeing gas prices down by around 50 per cent. We've managed to rein in the power of energy networks—which, if Labor had done it sooner, could have saved Australian households over $6 billion. And we've seen around 1.8 million Australian households take advantage of the opportunity to get onto a better energy plan for the future, and they've done so because of the drive and the focus that this government has provided to encourage more households to make the switch. Overall, these reforms will make sure that households, businesses, retirees, families, those investing in exports and others will have the lowest energy prices possible, and that will continue to be the relentless focus of this government.
We understand that households are doing it tough, with a number of cost-of-living pressures for many Australians, particularly those who are on fixed incomes, such as retirees, and those with many other costs, such as many Australian families. We know that they've seen, over the past 10 years, a 56 per cent increase in electricity prices, and that is just unacceptable. That's why we've worked over a continuous period of time to put in place reforms to the retail market, reforms to transmission grids, reforms to the generation systems—all of them focused on ensuring that we drive prices down.
We also know that, for Australian businesses, lower electricity prices are central to competitiveness, and we must make sure that we keep Australian business as competitive as possible in terms of their ability to compete with the rest of the world. That is why we'll continue the work on implementing those ACCC recommendations, which will ensure that we get more investment in reliable energy that encourages more competition, backed by the toughest of penalties for the future. (Time expired)
Whilst our government has focused comprehensively on energy market reforms to drive prices down—and we will continue to do so in the future—we know that those opposite sat back when they were last in power and let power prices spiral, let Australian households and businesses wear the pain of higher prices. We also know that, in terms of the choice at the next election, Australians can look at a coalition government that has sought to drive prices down, that has the policies that are driving them down and that has done the hard yards through acting on the ACCC review, which will continue to put downward pressure on prices, versus those opposite, who go to the next election with policies that are likely to see dramatic escalation in power prices that Australians will face. These are policies such as the potential 50 per cent renewable energy target, which will likely increase intermittency and uncertainty in terms of reliability and result in higher prices, compared with a focus on making sure that the market works to the benefit of all households and consumers. (Time expired)